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Morning Media Newsfeed: #FreeAJStaff | AMC’s Earnings Surge | MSNBC Taps Ex-MT Gov.

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Al Jazeera Calls for Global Support of Detained Staff (Al Jazeera America)
Al Jazeera called for a Global Day of Action Thursday to demand the immediate release of four of its journalists who have been locked up in Egypt’s prisons for months. People in more than 30 cities expressed their solidarity and support, with public events taking place in Sydney, Manila, Islamabad, Doha, Amman, Nairobi, Ankara, Berlin, London, Rio, Montreal, Washington and San Francisco. NBC News Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, all journalists from the Qatar-based network, were detained on Dec. 29, 2013, and accused of spreading false news and belonging to a terrorist group. They were scheduled to stand trial on Feb. 21, but the trial was adjourned until March 5. Abdullah Al Shamy was also detained more than six months ago without charge and has been on a hunger strike since Jan. 23. The group had been reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that took power in the Egypt elections following protests in 2011 but was banned after a violent crackdown. Mashable Al Jazeera staff in newsrooms across the world sent support for the journalists Thursday. The organization encouraged people to include the hashtag #FreeAJStaff in tweets. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media A vigil for the imprisoned journalists was held Thursday afternoon at the Newseum in Washington. Other demonstrations included a plane with a sign flying over Rio de Janeiro with the hashtag. TVNewser Al Jazeera America collected images from demonstrations around the world and posted them to a live blog. Many media outlets around the world have also joined the cause, which has increasingly gained momentum: Last week, an international group of television executives called for the journalists’ release. The protests also gained coverage on other networks: On CBS This Morning Thursday, correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reported from London, where protestors in Trafalgar Square released black balloons into the sky as part of the demonstration.

AMC Networks Earnings Soar on Ad-Revenue Growth (WSJ)
AMC Networks Inc.’s fourth-quarter earnings surged as the media company posted stronger advertising revenue and fewer debt-related charges. The company reported a profit of $35.4 million, or 49 cents a share, up from $15.2 million, or 21 cents a share, a year earlier. Variety Fourth-quarter revenue rose 18.7 percent, or $69 million, to $435 million, led by a 19.3 percent rise in revenue at the company’s national cable networks, which include IFC, Sundance and We. Revenue at the national networks came to about $404 million. Advertising revenue at those networks rose 31 percent to $205 million. THR Despite these gains, AMC’s adjusted operating cash flow declined amid a $52 million programming write-off. On an earnings conference call, CEO Josh Sapan said that the write-offs came for crime drama Low Winter Sun, which AMC canceled late last year amid weak ratings for its first season, and The Killing, which was canceled after three seasons. Bloomberg Businessweek The company’s sales in the recent quarter surged as advertisers clamored to buy time during broadcasts of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. The midseason premier of The Walking Dead, the No. 1 show on television for adults aged 18 to 49, drew 16 million viewers earlier this month. AMC is particularly thrilled that the show Mad Men and its other hits have only become more popular over time, bucking the trend in television sequel seasons.

Brian Schweitzer Joins MSNBC (Politico / Dylan Byers on Media)
Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer, who recently said he didn’t aspire to be on MSNBC, has joined the liberal cable news channel as a contributor, an MSNBC spokesperson has confirmed. The Associated Press The Democrat’s first appearance in his new role came Wednesday during an appearance on The Ed Show in which he discussed a segment on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. Schweitzer is an outspoken proponent of the project to ship oil from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, putting him at odds with many Democrats. TVNewser Schweitzer told the Associated Press he will appear once or twice a week from a studio being built in his home, and won’t just be giving Democratic talking points. Mediaite Schweitzer has previously hinted he might run for president in 2016, and despite MSNBC’s reputation as a liberal network, he recently did not have anything to say when asked by MSNBC to name a single positive thing President Obama has done in his time in office.

Atlantic Media Exec to Become Time Inc. Exec (The Washington Post / Erik Wemple)
It was announced Thursday that Scott Havens, president of The Atlantic, is jumping to Time Inc., where he’ll serve as senior vice president, digital. In that capacity, he’ll be overseeing the digital development of People, Time, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, CNNMoney, Money, Golf, SI for Kids and Time for Kids. FishbowlNY Havens had been with The Atlantic since 2009; he was named president of the magazine in 2012. In a memo to staffers, Atlantic Media’s CEO David Bradley said that the move came as a surprise, but Havens was more than qualified to take on the Time Inc. role. FishbowlDC ”Somewhat to my surprise, and I think to his, Scott Havens has decided to return to New York to accept a (huge) appointment with the new Time Inc. — the (soon-to-be) Time Warner spin-off of its great and iconic magazine brands,” Bradley wrote. Havens will stay on at The Atlantic until the end of March.

Discovery Communications Shakes Up Leadership for Its U.S. Networks (The Wrap)
Discovery Communications has re-aligned the leadership for its portfolio of U.S. networks, dividing the portfolio among its group presidents. The redistribution is intended to “build on the company’s strong ratings momentum, [increase] investment in original content and to create a more complementary set of portfolio groups overall,” Discovery said in a press release Thursday. THR Eileen O’Neill, Discovery Communications group president, who oversaw Discovery Channel and TLC, will now be in charge of Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Velocity. Group president Marjorie Kaplan will continue to oversee Animal Planet, while adding TLC under her purview. Additionally, group president Henry Schleiff will add Discovery Fit and Health to his responsibilities, which already include oversight over Investigation Discovery, Destination America and American Heroes Channel. Variety Discovery said the current leadership of each channel would remain in place. Debbie Myers, general manager of Science Channel, and Bob Scanlon, general manager of Velocity, will now report to O’Neill, while Nancy Daniels, general manager of TLC, will report to Kaplan.

Rosie O’Donnell Would ‘Love’ CNN 9 P.M. Slot, But Denies She’s Being Considered (TVNewser)
Former View co-host Rosie O’Donnell took to Twitter Thursday morning to deny rumors from a NY Daily News report that she’s on CNN’s short-list to replace the recently canceled Piers Morgan at 9 p.m. ET. New York Daily News ”O’Donnell is at the top; the rest are Joy Behar, Ann Curry, Anthony Bourdain, David Muir, Star Jones, Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow,” a person with knowledge of the list told the Daily News. “Most of the people that are being considered are ones that either create news, are going to make news or have rated really high on television in the past.” HuffPost O’Donnell’s tweet read, “although I would love to do that show — the story is not true — if there is a list I am not on it.” She last anchored The Rosie Show, which was canceled in 2012, on the Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.

ProPublica Launches Data Store, With Prices Ranging From Free to $10,000 (GigaOM)
Investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica is known for its data-driven reporting, and now the site is trying to find a new life (and revenue stream) for the data it uses in its stories. On Wednesday, ProPublica opened its Data Store, where it gives away or sells the data that its reporters use in their stories. 10,000 Words The store allows news organizations and individual reporters to “shop” for research that ProPublica has either been given access to by the federal government through FOI requests or data resources gathered by ProPublica’s internal team. Some information will be available for free, but for the datasets that the investigative journalism provider has collected as a “result of significant expenditures of time and effort,” ProPublica will impose a one-time fee: $200 for journalists and $2,000 for academic researchers.

ABC Signs On to Twitter’s Advertising Program, Starting With #Oscars (Variety)
ABC is the last of the major U.S. broadcast networks to get into the Twitter Amplify program, planning to launch its first sponsored-tweet campaign Sunday with the Oscars. The partnership will kick off on Sunday, March 2, in conjunction with ABC’s telecast of the Academy Awards. The package will include 10 “Twitter mirror” photos from celebrities in the green room at the Oscars, to capture behind-the-scenes moments before, during and after the Oscars. Mashable Karin Gilford, SVP of digital media at ABC, says the videos will be part of an ad buy from Samsung and will be branded as such. “It allows these photos to reach a larger audience,” Gilford says. “It gets that great content in the hands of more Oscar viewers.”

Amazon-Owned Audible Lowers Royalty Rates on Self-Published Audiobooks (GigaOM)
Audible, the digital audiobook site owned by Amazon that launched audiobook rights platform ACX in 2011 as a way for authors and publishers to profit from their unsold audiobook rights, is now lowering the royalties it pays on those audiobooks. ACX enables rights holders — authors or publishers, though the site has become increasingly geared toward self-published authors — to post their rights on the platform and let producers and narrators bid on them. Once the book is recorded, the rights holder can sell it through Amazon and Audible exclusively for a higher royalty rate, or sell it wherever they want for a lower royalty. Until now, these royalties have been generous, up to 90 percent depending on the number of units sold and the platform. The new changes, effective March 12, will implement royalty rates between 25 percent and 40 percent.

Martha Raddatz to Split Hosting Duties on ABC’s This Week (Politico / Dylan Byers on Media)
Martha Raddatz, the primary substitute for George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, will now anchor the show alternatively with Stephanopoulos, effectively splitting the Sunday affairs program between two hosts, network sources say. Raddatz, who also serves as the network’s chief global affairs correspondent, will keep her title as primary substitute but will effectively become an alternate host. Mediaite ”George will continue to anchor at least half of the broadcasts and, as announced last year, Martha will continue to serve as the primary fill in,” ABC spokesperson Heather Riley said.

The Oscars Will Be Live Streamed for First Time Ever (Mashable)
In a move highlighting the changing ways viewers watch TV, ABC will live stream the 86th Academy Awards online and on mobile via the network’s Watch ABC app, which has offered live streamed and on-demand content since launching in May. This will be the first time the Oscars are available through a live stream. Viewers can watch the live stream on March 2 at Oscar.com, ABC.com and WatchABC.com, in addition to the Watch ABC app for Android and iOS. LA Times / Company Town But the live streaming service will be available only to subscribers of a pay-TV service that has recently entered into a new distribution deal with ABC and its parent company Walt Disney Co. Disney’s newer distribution deals, including a two-year-old agreement with Comcast Corp., grant streaming rights. Comcast customers in Philadelphia will be able to activate the streaming service. However, such rights were not included in older deals. Customers of three of the nation’s four largest pay-TV providers — Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network — will not be able to live stream the Oscars.

AP’s Rukmini Callimachi Joins The New York Times (HuffPost)
Rukmini Callimachi, the West Africa bureau chief for The Associated Press, is joining The New York Times, according to a staff memo obtained by The Huffington Post. Callimachi has reported from Africa over the past seven years. She’s been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and last year won an ASNE award for distinguished writing. Callimachi’s dispatches from West Africa have stood out from the pack. In December, she wrote a moving first-person account of finding dead bodies in Mali and confronting the country’s military. A few weeks later, Callimachi reported on Al Qaeda’s detailed expense account system based on documents obtained by the AP.

Tweets, Vines Coming to A Cinema Near You Soon (AllTwitter)
NCM Media Networks, the largest national cinema network in the U.S., has announced a deal with Twitter to develop a new series that will bring entertainment-related tweets and vines to movie theaters. Completely powered by Twitter Amplify, Twitter’s multi-screen partner program, the new show will last just a single minute and be compromised entirely of quick-moving segments that will look at hot news and trending movie and entertainment content on Twitter and Vine.

Michelle Obama to Appear on Parks And Recreation (THR)
The first lady will guest star on the season finale of Parks And Recreation, NBC announced Thursday. The one-hour season-six closer is slated to air Thursday, April 24 at 8 p.m. Obama’s cameo will be in the episode titled “Moving Up,” which was filmed in late February in Miami, where she celebrated investments in healthier out-of-school programs as part of her “Let’s Move” initiative dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity.

Scholastic Hires Chief Experience Officer (GalleyCat)
Scholastic has hired Heather McIntosh Cassano as chief experience officer, a newly created position. In her new role, Cassano will work with the company’s various publishing departments to implement Scholastic digital experiences. She will also lead the entire company’s user experience designers, prototypers and user researchers. Evolving the company’s website for elementary school teachers is her first mission.

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